The Ministry of Public Health plans to organise “Survival Swimming Skills” programmes across the country to prevent children from drowning and to train them in rescue methods and CPR.
In the past decade, 6,992 children under 15 years of age have died from drowning, or 700 a year on average, according to Santi Promphat, the deputy minister.
The most at-risk group are those from 1-9 years old, with many drowning during their summer school break from March to May, he said on Thursday.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), drowning is the most common cause of death for children aged 5-14 years worldwide.
Many are not trained in survival or rescue swimming. A surveys by the Department of Disease Control (DDC) and Chulalongkorn University in 2019 found that 28.4% of Thai children above six years old can swim but only 9.4% are trained in survival swimming.
“Of all seven million children, only 1.9 million know how to swim,” said Mr Santi.
The ministry has set up programmes to instruct them, in line with the UN campaign to ensure children learn life-saving swimming skills.
These include training children above six years old in survival and rescue swimming, and teaching children over 12 how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
Mr Santi said the ministry encourages public health clinics nationwide to educate parents about the importance of teaching their children swimming skills and securing playgrounds for children under five years of age, in an attempt to avoid preventable deaths.
Dr Thongchai Keeratihuttayakorn, the acting director-general of the DDC, said that “Survival Swimming Skills” programmes held in October were attended by 3,000 children from 15 provinces.
He said the programmes would be adopted by provinces nationwide and the ministry would support the setting up of advocates for children’s safety in every subdistrict.